I think I joined Facebook in 2007; not exactly an early adopter but not a late-comer either. I can remember who sent me the link and why she said I would like it. She was right I did! Before that I was a user of ‘Friends Reunited’ too – you remember that? Where you could look people up from school? I became a Facebook fan and, as smart phones came into my life and I spent increasing amounts of time travelling with my phone in my hand, social media an increasingly important part of my personal life.
A little while later, in 2009, someone at work suggested I join Twitter. I am always curious about new things so I duly logged in and created my account – @anniecoops was born.
In February 2009, when I started my Twitter journey, I took ages to warm up. Like many people who I speak to I didn’t really ‘get’ it and after around 3 months of trying I gave up. Here is my illuminating first tweet :0)
I can’t remember what made me go back but after those 3 months but I suspect it was a challenge from someone who probably said ‘If you don’t get it, you are probably not trying hard enough’ and I absolutely can’t resist a challenge like that! I met some important friends along the way and by April 2015 I find that I have tweeted 74K times and now have 8600 followers. With the launch of a social media film that I have worked on with @NHSIQ I thought it was time to reflect on that journey and what has happened.
Annie was never my name, I always thought it was a bit twee for me, more of a nice girl name rather than the firm, straight and solid name Anne. I always say Anne is a good name, you can’t shorten it and it’s hard to mess with but I had no idea how ‘Annie’ was going to become part of my life. I had been called ‘Coops’ at work for quite a while and my son in the Cadets was called the same. When I tried to register @annecoops it was gone as was @annecooper. The addition of the ‘i’ to my first name was simply a pragmatic thing to do. I had no idea what was going to happen and that, by 2015, more people at work would call me Annie than Anne!
My social media journey has been a great addition to my professional life. Later in September 2012 started my wordpress blog and I re-discovered my love of reflecting through writing. By then AnnieCoops had taken hold as my ‘brand’ and also became the name of my blog.
I completely accept that social media is not for everyone – I dislike those who behave as zealots trying to pressurise people into using social media, particularly Twitter. It’s not for everyone but quite often there will be a platform that works for most people – I know lots of people who love Pinterest for example but I personally don’t get it as I clearly prefer the words and feelings that blogs evoke for me. I love Blipfoto as well but I am too ill-disciplined to be properly focussed on trying to improve my photography skills.
Social Media has been a positive experience for me and I thought it might be helpful to say why:
- Professional inclusion
Working in informatics is hard. It’s like the geek club and most of the time I don’t actually belong in it – I’m tolerated and valued but not quite part of it either. Additionally in nursing informatics still feels peripheral. Back in 2009 I didn’t really think I was part of nursing, I had the sense, rightly or wrongly, that people didn’t really get the digital agenda and as a result I wasn’t really part of the nursing ‘family’ – I was labelled a geek* and therefore not part of where the nursing action was. Twitter changed that for me, I started to talk to other nurses and soon established a new network where I felt like I belonged and I continue to feel part of that family. It has given me a real opportunity to feel professionally re-connected and valued and to re-profile myself as more than the perceived ‘geek’.
- Creating bridges
Social Media has been great for me in making connections and creating bridges to new spaces. New spaces I have been given a glimpse into include connecting with more professionals including doctors, midwives, pharmacists, medical educators, people who working in housing and local government, the voluntary sector, leadership development, organisational development, education – the list is so long I can’t list everyone and I value all those connections more than I can explain. It has given my personal and professional life a greater breadth and depth that would not have been possible without social media. I value the eclectic nature of my connections and social media friends.
- Being a patient
Being a professional who happens to have a long term condition like T1 Diabetes can be a challenge. I think for many years most of the time I ignored it. Social Media allowed me to not only find a Diabetes family but also to try to add value to that community. I have enjoyed blogging about my condition and also sharing via Twitter some of the ups and downs. I have tried to help others too and to share my expertise as a patient. I wish I had found this opportunity earlier in my life.
- Access to resources and expertise
One of the very best things about Twitter is the generosity of the people I connect to. I have learnt more in the last few years about so many things and I believe that this is likely to make me a better professional but also a better person. Sharing is not just the technical stuff but thoughts feelings and emotions that help me to understand in a deeper way – it’s a better learning space than any lecture I have ever had at university.